A Super Proud Moment in My Life & for the state of Georgia
I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010. I have met diplomats, Presidents, and other high level officials, traveled to 8 different countries representing the state of Georgia and been a part of some great legislative changes to help the 9 million Georgians within this state. But I have NEVER had a prouder moment, outside of being elected by my constituents, than I had on Nov. 8th, 2017 at Atlanta City Hall. Over 150 attendees flooded Atlanta City Hall Old Chambers for a historic event in the state of Georgia: The 1st EVER Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference, an intersection of technology and innovation and policy making and policy makers. Epic is an understatement. (Pictured above: Me and co-chair Rodney Sampson before event.)
The Vision Is Born
First, I want to thank Ms. Leverette and the Atlanta Council for giving me this opportunity to speak at this Meeting. It is always a pleasure to speak to business women as a business woman myself but ESPECIALLY important when there is a diverse group of women who want to learn how to grow personally and professionally from each other. Today is not only about me imparting wisdom and life lessons on you—but learning from you as well so I look forward to chatting with some of you after this event.
Also thank you to Dr. Sykes for her support and joining me today. Give her a round of applause. She is a part of my consulting firm’s “Givers Circle”, which is a group of diversity advocates that meet monthly to discuss a number of diversity issues and discuss solutions to race and gender problems.
This is my 1st of about 5 speaking engagements I have over the next month including 2 award ceremonies. Even though I am asked to speak numerous times a year, the pace and importance of my speaking engagements are starting to pick up so I have been wondering how to introduce myself in a memorable way. And I think I have come to the conclusion that I need Beyonce’s back up dancers to follow me around and play her song “Who Run the World” every time I take the stage. But, I cannot afford Beyonce’s back up dancers so if anyone wants to volunteer for these roles let me know. But it is true that we all know who run the world and that’s who ladies? (Repeat) It has been proven repeatedly that when women are at the table—things get done faster and better, both in business and in politics.
So if you cannot by one of my back up dancers, I have another task for you that I hope you can help me out with: I need you to snap pictures and tag me on social media. My tags are just DarshunKendrick (page on FB, Twitter @TheDiversityAct, Instagram and LinkedIn). Can you do that for me?
Now the flier for this event is a little ambitious—I am supposed to “introduce you to a proven system for success and tips to be a part of political decision making.” Well I can tell you right now how to answer the first part of that: My proven system for success IS, and write this down ladies, ….FAILURE WITH GRACE.
Proven System for Success: Failure With Grace
Now I know you are saying Dar’shun that’s not quite what we wanted to hear. We wanted to hear something uplifting and inspirational on this Saturday afternoon. Well, I am a pragmatist and I am here to tell you: failure and defeat with the utmost grace got me to where I am today. It’s often said that in life we either learn or succeed, but never truly fail so long as we are trying. That may be true, but it’s through failure that I learned to use grace to turn to what makes me happy: service to others. Let me explain.
My Childhood in the Dec
I was born at Grady Hospital and raised in Decatur GA. Not the nice part of Decatur—-the drug deal making part of Decatur, off Glenwood Road. My parents are blue collar, lower middle class folks. Neither one of them had a college degree until my mom got hers at the age of 53 a few years ago. None of my 4 grandparents have a high school diploma—let me repeat NONE of my grandparents had a high school diploma. But God got the last laugh because now I have 4 degrees, one in honor of each one of my grandparents.
The High School Blues
But the road to 4 degrees was rough. I went to Towers High School where the graduation rate at the time was 30% and I had a 25% chance of being pregnant by age 16. High school was also the time of one my first big fails in life, as I saw it. I am an introvert. No one believes me but I am very good about being extroverted when I need to. But in high school I was extremely shy, very nerdy and—check this out—-unbothered by others opinion of me, which was rare for a high school student especially a female. And for this, I was bullied physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I felt I had FAILED in high school. I was extremely unpopular.
But at the time, I could have got depressed or complained or isolated myself but what I decided to do was to get involved in student government. I was involved in elementary school but I really gravitated towards it in high school and so I emerced myself in student government activities. I could never get elected—but I always got appointed to plan Spirit Week or to plan the Homecoming Parade and Dance because the leadership knew I got stuff done. And that’s where I fell in love with the ability to serve others in a leadership capacity. Failure with grace.
The College Years As a Stormy Petrel & Bulldog
Fast forward,I am at Oglethorpe University. I work for 2 members of Congress, one on Capitol Hill in DC, work at the State Capitol for 2 years, run a State Senate campaign, work for the Democratic Party of GA and get into EVERY law school I apply for, including a full ride plus cash to one, all before the age of 22——life was good
And then came law school at UGA Law. Another opportunity to fail with grace. I wish I could tell you all that I was made to be a lawyer but it would be untrue. I ran for several positions in leadership—lost them all. I interviewed for law firm jobs—-didn’t get any. I tried to make friends—that didn’t seem to work either. So what did I do? The same thing that I did in high school. I turned to service. So with a new professor at UGA Law, I started the first ever business legal society focused on networking with transactional lawyers, not litigators. That society, ladies, still exists today at UGA Law and still thriving and I am proud to say I was the Founder. Failing… with grace.
The Perfect Storm
What happened 2 years after graduation is the story of a lifetime: In August of 2009, I came back from a cruise for my 26th birthday and none of the partners at my law firm were talking to each other. True story. And I knew that things were bad at the firm but didn’t know it was THIS bad. Long story short, the firm imploded and everyone was released by the end of the year. Bad timing too because I was just enrolling in my M.B.A. program at Kennesaw. It was in the middle of the Great Recession and, as a new lawyer with no job, I felt I had failed myself, my parents, my law school and Sallie Mae because I still had school loans to repay. So ladies—what I am about to tell you next is the ULTIMATE failing with grace story so listen carefully.
To Everything, There is a Season
Many of you can relate that since I had a law firm, I needed clients. In order to get clients, I needed to do business development and I wanted to have a business event in DeKalb where I lived. So I set up a meeting with a legislator I knew, Rep. Howard Mosby, for Wednesday around lunch time to discuss some ideas. Wednesday around lunch time, you hear me? Something came up and he cancelled. I thought “great. another delay.” I really wanted that Wednesday meeting but decided not to get upset but instead fail with grace. So, I pushed for him to immediately reschedule to that following day, Thursday for lunch.
So I get to the Capitol Thursday and we are walking down the Capitol steps to lunch and I will never forget what he turned around and said to me that literally changed my life. He said “What district do you live in?” I said” Rep. Randall Mangum, House District 94″. And he said “You are running for his seat. 2 hours before you got here, he decided to run for Governor and we need someone to run.” True story. Remember ladies, to everything there is a season.
Now, I was hardheaded, as some of us are when blessings are chasing us down. I said “no” several times. I called my friend Ted Terry, who is now the Mayor of Clarkston, to talk me out of it and he did the opposite and paid my qualification fees. My colleague in the House now Rep. Doreen Carter offered to take me down to qualify after I tried to get her to run in my place instead. On the way to qualify, I received a call from a friend of mine who was an intern on Capitol Hill in DC at the same time I was. He just so happened to work for then Commissioner Lee May who represented my district who said to me “I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. But Edmond says great things about you. If you’re ok with him, you’re ok with me. You have my support.” Ladies, failing with grace has served me well.
I went on to qualify 30 minutes before the deadline and at age 27 became the State Representative from then House District 94, beating out 5 other competitors.
So to conclude—-my secret to success is simple but a hard reality: Failure, because it teaches you to be creative and makes you stronger. Remember that pearls are made from friction and diamonds are made from pressure. But take it a step further and concentrate on failing wit
That’s why my consulting firm has several initiatives like:
The GA Path Program, which is an initiative to expose more minorities and women to careers in professional lobbying. We are still accepting applications for that program until Oct. 11th. I will talk more about this program later.
We also have our Corporate Board Training program to train and mentor minorities and women to be on PAID, corporate boards. We are in talks with a large NGO in New York to partner with us to make that happen soon so stay tuned if interested.
And last, a Wonder Women Confidence Conference that I am planning with some wonderful women for March of 2018…complete with capes…to focus on empowering and teaching women who are in male dominated industries.
So in conclusion, I pray each of you find your failure and then find your grace…. in service on boards, in your community or any other capacity you see fit.